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Milton, union agree to insurance change

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
January 5, 2012
— The City of Milton Public Works Department has agreed to terms of an employee health insurance change the city says will save taxpayers $70,000.

City Administrator Jerry Schuetz wrote in a news release that the city reached a tentative agreement on the union's contract change Dec. 28. The union and the city ratified the deal, which the council approved Tuesday.


The insurance changes are retroactive to Jan. 1, Schuetz wrote.


The agreement came after months of talks between the union and the city. It caps a larger plan by the city to change insurance carriers from a state health insurance provider to a Mercy Care plan for its union and non-union employees.


According to the city, the employee insurance change will save about $70,000 in the next year. City estimates released earlier this fall showed about $20,000 of that savings would come through public works concessions in the deal ratified Tuesday.


Last year, the city spent $334,000 on state health insurance to cover about 23 union and nonunion workers, including four retirees enrolled in a post-employment benefit program.


The city will apply savings from the changeover to its general fund, using some to soften water and sewer expenses, Schuetz has said.


Through the change, the city also was able to avoid laying off any employees, Schuetz has said.


Non-represented employees and members of the Milton police union voluntarily switched to the Mercy Care plan Nov. 1, but the public works union had been holding off.


The union, which is represented by Teamsters Local 695, had set its contract last year before Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill taking effect.


The union was concerned about reopening its contract to make benefits concessions, fearing it would open the deal to provisions of the budget repair bill and make other parts of the contract void, city officials have said.


The union was able to reopen its contract under Act 65, a law that went in effect in November 2010. The law permits bargaining units to modify existing contracts without being subject to all the provisions of Walker's budget repair bill.


Evan Wynn, R-Whitewater, who represents the 43rd Assembly District introduced Act 65.


Public works union steward Lon Liefke declined comment on the agreement. The Gazette could not reach Ron Griffin, another union steward.



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